Topic Study: Stiffnecked, Stiffneckedness

(Seminary lesson in Laguna, California May 4, 1995  TG Entry: Stiffnecked)

Overview

The contrast in the teaching about “other sheep” provides a beautiful lesson on being stiffnecked

I             Other Sheep

One day while teaching seminary, we discussed being stiffnecked.  I had never thought of this section of the Book of Mormon in this light, until I taught it.  First we read and discussed the below from 3 Nephi 15:16:

   16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:

   17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

   18 And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.

II            Marriot Center Leadership Meeting

I then told them about an experience I heard about when I was at BYU and which Brother Rand Packard reminded me of at a Know Your Religion lecture.

Elder Packard and Elder Featherstone were conducting a Priesthood Leadership Meeting at BYU for multiple Stakes.  They were meeting in the Marriott Center, which seats about 19,000 people.  I think there were probably about 500 to 1,000 people attending the session, but amid 19,000 seats, it looks like no one is there.  The Brethren were on the basketball floor, with the people sitting in the bleachers.  As men are apt to do, they spread out all over the place, some even sitting at the very top.

About 10 minutes before the meeting, Elder Featherstone stood and said, “Please come down here close together brethren.  We have many things we want to discuss with you, and we need the spirit of brotherhood that comes from sitting together.”  A few people moved down, but many stayed where they were at.  Those at the very top did not move.

Five minutes later, he stands, and says the same thing.  A few more people move, but many remain in their seats, or do not move very far at all.  There are still a few clear up at the top.

One minute before the meeting, he stands and says the same thing.  Those few still do not move.  Then Elder Packard stands and says something like, “Strange, isn’t it, how some people just will not listen.”

At the end of the meeting, during Elder Packard’s last talk, he says, “Brethren, we could tell you of experiences we have had with those beyond the veil, but the Spirit constrains us.”

III           What is Stiffneckness?

We then talked about what it means to be “stiffnecked.”  Perhaps we can learn from its opposite.

Then we turned to 3 Nephi 17 and read the following:

1 Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand.

   2 I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.

   3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.

   4 But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.

   5 And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.

   6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.

   7 Have ye any that are sick among you?  Bring them hither.  Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner?  Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

IV          Contrast

I asked, “Do you sense something different here?  Is this something different than stiffneckedness?”  We discussed the whole chapter.  How the Savior could sense their desire to learn.  How he wept, and blessed them.  I had them imagine how the meeting with Elder Packard could have gone.  Elder Packard standing the microphone, tears streaming down his face, as he describes these experiences he has had; as he learns new things that he didn’t even know.  What a different experience it would have been.

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